First the Bastogne War Museum.
On one of the first nice & sunny days in an otherwise gloomy and rainy month of March we finally decided to visit the recently renovated Bastogne War Museum.
Do you think 80 million people killed in WWII is glorious? Well, you should visit the Bastogne War Museum then. Good for a couple of hours of interesting information and objects from one of the bloodier episodes of the gruesome WW II: the Battle of the Ardennes or the Battle of the Bulge.
The Battle of the Bulge, so-called because the Germans created a “bulge” around the area of the Ardennes forest in pushing through the American defensive line, was the largest fought on the Western front.
All the objects exposed in the museum are well maintained and well presented, the audio-guides give you clear and to the point information about the Battle of the Bulge from the viewpoint of the locals as well as from the US & German soldiers. But not just that, you will also learn something about life under Nazi occupation, the origins of the conflict etc. ... Congratulations - great museum!
The Mardasson Memorial.
On the same site and just behind the Bastogne War Museum you’ll see an impressive monument honouring the 77,000 American soldiers who were killed, wounded or went missing in action during the battle of the Bulge. One can't feel but touched and emotional thinking about the violent events that gave birth to this monument.
The monument takes the form of a star with five points, each 31m long. Engraved in gold lettering, the story of the Battle can be read on the walls of the open gallery. Get up the spiral staircase (crowned by a totally ridiculous and very unimpressive yellow steel umbrella) and a walkway all around the top of the monument offers the visitor a panoramic view of the defensive positions held during the siege of the town.
Makes you think about the tens of thousands of young people that were wiped away in those few days that this battle lasted and for the some 80 million that were killed during the WWII. All because of the megalomaniac dreams of some nazi psychopaths...who could possibly think that war is glorious? A whole generation wiped from the face of the earth so we could enjoy freedom and democracy.
But the greatest lesson of that greatest generation is simple: when fighting evil on any scale, you liberate, subjugate, or annihilate your enemy. When you have a goal of total victory and unconditional surrender, you do not negotiate, equivocate, or accommodate your enemies or their friends. How on this earth did we ever lose our mooring to those principles that were the anchor of our very survival?
The cancer of extremism - be it religious or political - is spreading and metastasizing. It is a dangerous and aggressive cancer, and the weak, politically naïve, cowardly, and ignorant among us have let this malignancy grow to stage four … requiring some real tough treatment.
In the museum in Bastogne there is an interesting poster “Belgium Resists” and there is a quote on it of Thucydides (Athenian historian and general) that I like very much : “The strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must” …
On to Durbuy then.
As this little town is consistently presented as one of the most beautiful Walloon towns and as it was on our way back home from Bastogne we decided to pay it a short visit. To Belgian standards a nice quaint town indeed with some old houses left. Luckily there are still a few cobbled streets that are too narrow for cars to be able to circulate, the remaining parts of the village are completely spoiled by the Belgian disease: the total inability to decide to ban cars from the town centers. There is asphalt and concrete everywhere, cars blasting through the village center as the only (huge) car park is slam bang in the middle of town. And what is left is then given the coup de grace by way too many restaurants, fast food outlets, bars, cafés, ice-cream and waffle vendors ...your typical tourist trap in other words.
And as if that is not enough and to add insult to injury, there is our Flemish self-made overnight billionaire, businessman, inventor, football club owner and slightly eccentric media figure Marc “koekebak” Coucke ! He once dressed in a grape suit on his way to attend the Lille - Bordeaux football match, so that people would not recognize him among the vineyards…
And for all intents and purposes he is a big lover of the Durbuy part of the Ardennes as he seems to be buying everything that is for sale over there. And as you should know that he sold his company and brainchild Omega Pharma to the Americans for 3.6 billion € (more than 4 billion U$) I guess more acquisitions will follow, his war chest seems to pretty bottomless!
Coucke already owns a restaurant, a hotel, a campsite and an adventure park in the village. He also acquired two golf clubs near Durbuy: Golf de Durbuy in Barvaux and Five Nations in Méan. The latter also includes a hotel with 35 rooms.
And Durbuy will soon become yet a little more “Marc Coucke country”. The entrepreneur is now investing 30 million € in the construction of a four-star hotel in this little town (the building site was a giant hole in the ground when we visited)
And the megalomaniac dreams don’t stop there. He also wants to build a cable car and would also like to start construction of a museum for contemporary art in the village to show off his collection of works by the French avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp, which he modestly claims to be “the biggest in the world”.
So enjoy these few photos from authentic Durbuy - already being transformed as we write this blog from the small, quaint village into a busy, over-commercialized tourist trap.